NRB/NAE 2003 National Conventions

A Special Report On Two Neo-Evangelical Organizations

National Religious Broadcasters (NRB)
60th Annual Convention
Nashville, TN
February 7 - February 11, 2003

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)
61st Annual Convention
Wooddale Church, Eden Park, MN
March 6 - March 7, 2003

Reported by: Dr. Ralph G. Colas, Editor & Executive Secretary (Adapted by BDM)
American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC)
P.O. Box 19, Wallingford, PA 19086-0019
(610) 566-8154 (voice)/(610) 892-0992 (fax)/

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) met in Nashville, TN, February 7-11, 2003, while the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) held their meeting at the Wooddale Church, Eden Park, MN, March 6-7, 2003. 

This report will deal with these in a separate way, but the observations may overlap as both share the same heritage and position.

National Religious Broadcasters (NRB)

For the first time in 11 years, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) welcomed a standing president of the United States of America. President George W. Bush accepted the invitation to come to Nashville, Tennessee and used the occasion to rally the armies of compassion "to save one heart and one soul at a time. Welfare does not solve the deepest problems of the soul," the President declared. Some activities and workshops had to be either changed or cancelled on the day President Bush spoke. Tight security was evident as the standing-room only crowd gathered into the Presidential Ballroom. President Bush called upon the broadcasters to communicate the need for all churches to cross denominational, racial, and economic boundaries and to really work together helping the needy.

NRB's convention in 2002 was marked by conflict, according to Chairman Glenn Plummer, a charismatic and the first African-American elected to that office, but he expected the 2003 Convention to be one of peace and harmony. After a long search to find another CEO, Dr. Frank Wright was selected and introduced at the first press conference, and also at the first plenary session. Wright was the executive director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, based in Washington, D.C., and also an elder at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The Opening General Session was led by Glenn Plummer who boldly declared to everyone that "Our message cannot change and neither secularism nor Islam with their own agendas will replace the truth that there is only one name in Acts 4:12 and that is Jesus Christ."

Special music at the first meeting was by Out of Eden, David Phelps, and Ginny Owens; while the speaker was Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Brooklyn, N.Y. Cymbala's newest book, Fresh Power, was given to all that were in attendance. The back cover reveals it is recommended by both Max Lucado and Anne Graham Lotz.

The activities the next day began with a Worship Service. Words were scrolled across four large video screens declaring, "There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of a single candle." Dr. Alistar Begg, pastor of the Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio brought the sermon. Using Luke 16:19-31, he spoke on the rich man and Lazarus. There was an unusual quietness in that large auditorium as Begg said, "We must give people what they need to hear and not what they want. You can talk about finances and family and yet neglect the truths of the Gospel. Remember, Hell is filled with good people."

The NRB inducted Dr. Adrian Rogers, pastor of the 23,000 member Bellevue Baptist Church (SBC)  in Memphis, TN, and host of "Love Worth Finding," into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Following the Awards program, a concert was held with Avalon, the 2003 American Music Awards favorite artist in contemporary music, and also featured Russ Lee and Natalie Grant. Avalon's newest release "charts new musical territory, but the message a song conveys is more important," according to NRB's printed program, The music at the convention, for the most part, had a driving beat and was very loud.

A special press conference was held by the National Pro-life Religious Council. Those who spoke included actress Jennifer O'Neill, Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Information shared by those who spoke said that 70% of those getting abortions claim they are affiliated with the Christian faith. Dr. Land declared the Supreme Court could either rescind or reverse Roe vs. Wade. All who spoke underlined that the National Pro-life Religious Council "opposed abortions but not the ones who had the abortion. No one who had an abortion needs condemnation."

The Anniversary Banquet featured as speaker Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California. World Vision, which holds membership in the World Council of Churches, sponsored the banquet. Dr. Warren related that 16,000 attend his church every weekend and there are 50,000 names on his church roll! He is the pioneer of the Purpose-Driven Church that promotes "church health and growth."

NRB's attendance in 2003 was 5,550 with 272 exhibitors using 140,000 square feet of space. The convention in 2004 will be in Charlotte, N.C. and in Anaheim, CA in 2005. A number of individuals were added to the expanded NRB Board of Directors . While they had 90 members previously, they now have 103. Ron Cline of HCJB was elected as First Vice President and other members of the Executive Committee are Bill Blount, Rod Harris, Jim Gwinn, Sue Bahner, Bob Neff, Janet Parshall and Bill Skelton.

This reporter's observations about the NRB Convention:

(a) A large ad was placed in the NRB's daily Newspaper, which was sponsored by Global Catholic Network. Its headline was, "How much could a Catholic Nun know about Radio?" With the picture of Mother Angelica, the ad told the story that while this nun did not know anything about radio or television, she had faith and started the Eternal Word Television Network which today is a state-of-the-art facility. The network features "a live daily Mass, popular call in talk shows, music, and news, so there is something for everyone." Catholic Answers, from El Cajon, California and a defender of the Roman Catholic Church, was an exhibitor. For the first time Conciliar Press of the Eastern Orthodox Church had a booth at NRB. Dr. Frank Wright, NRB's new CEO, defended having such groups there. He said it can have "redeeming value" as they learn about NRB.

(b) Voice of Prophecy was back as an exhibitor and when questioned they will acknowledge they really are Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). With them it seems to be a "Don't ask--don't tell" process. 

(c) Dr. Wright said he believes the "Cultural Mandate" is for today just as the Great Commission in the New Testament is. He believes the NRB demonstrates both of these in their programs and goals.

(d) World Vision and the Salvation Army are both active at NRB functions. But nothing is ever said that they are a part of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Numerous charismatic organizations always work hard at NRB to promote their books, programs and videos.

(e) The National Religious Broadcasters has a worthy goal to see that access to preach the Gospel over the airways is not restricted. However, its broad inclusive organization shows it fits right in the center of the New Evangelical camp.

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)

Because of internal strife at the 60th annual NAE convention, no convention was held in 2002. The controversy two years ago erupted because of decisions by Dr. Kevin Mannoia, the new NAE President, to move the NAE office to the west coast at great expense, and also to open the NAE to entire denominations that held membership in both the National and World Council of Churches. The Presbyterian Church of America, a constituent body in the NAE, raised a strong protest and even threatened to leave. Though there are many individual churches in the NAE that are also in the National and World Councils, this was an attempt by Dr. Mannoia to expand the NAE by bringing the Reformed Church in America into full membership. The issue was resolved when the NAE Board of Directors received the resignation of Mannoia and adopted a resolution forbidding entire denominations from being received into membership in the NAE. (In this action they even included forbidding groups from the American Council of Christian Churches into membership - even though the ACCC would never try to join them!)

Dr. Leith Anderson was selected as the NAE interim-president while still remaining the senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Minnesota, the host church for the 61st convention. Dr. Anderson brought a measure of stability by his leadership and led the NAE in repaying the hundreds of thousands of dollars owed. He resigned as president at the close of the 61st convention and a few days later it was announced that Dr. Ted Haggard, senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was selected. Haggard's church is building a 12,000 seat sanctuary on land near the Air Force Academy. He is a charismatic who also serves as president of The World Prayer Center, a strategic center for worldwide evangelistic prayer. Dr. Bill Hamel, president of the Evangelical Free Church of America and NAE Board Chairman, said "Ted Haggard will give evangelicals a positive and proactive leadership voice. His commitment to bringing evangelicals together for mission, prayer, and a united voice is a deeply held value that is acknowledged and known throughout the evangelical world."

During one of the assembly sessions at the Wooddale Church, Dr. Haggard not only announced that his church would host NAE's Convention in 2004, but also said that the program would be built around an emphasis on "the mega churches in the USA. We will have Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral as one of our main speakers!" The fact that Dr. Schuller is both a Universalist and an apostate never seemed to be an issue.

The opening session began with contemporary music led by a worship team of 6 instrumentalists and 6 vocalists. This music soon had the charismatics raising their hands and clapping in time with the beat. Dr. Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, which is the largest denomination in the NAE, was the first speaker. He emphasized the Divine Resources, the Human Needs and the Loving Channels that can be used to bring glory to God.

A forum followed on "The Future Of American Evangelicalism," moderated by NAE President Leith Anderson. Others serving on that panel were David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, and President George Brushaber of Bethel College and Seminary. Dr. Anderson began by rehearsing events such as the Scopes Trial in 1925, and the birth of the NAE and the NRB. He declared that "evangelicals have moved from the margin to the mainline. The largest churches in the USA are evangelical. But I do not know what is next for evangelicals." Dr. Brushaber said that evangelicals need to be good students of our culture and recognize that "the affluence has enabled evangelical churches to build mega churches." He added, "Now many churches charge fees for services and much of the older generation who supported the ministries have been replaced by the boomers who do not want a long-term commitment to stewardship." Dr. Martin Marty, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is in the NCC/WCC, and is also editor of the liberal Christian Century, told that in 1978 the Pope declared "these evangelicals are people of good will with whom we must work." He went on to say "the average evangelical does not even know what is the denomination of the church he attends and does not even care. The fact is that 77% of the people in the pews have no idea if they belong to any group outside their local church. Many evangelicals now recognize they can work with the Roman Catholic Church on certain causes. Evangelicals have learned from the mistakes of others who refused to do this. Many years ago evangelicals rejected Christian Rock but now they embrace it." Dr. David Neff, editor of the New Evangelical magazine Christianity Today, declared that "evangelicalism is full of change. We must transform sinful culture; not just reject it. Churches and para-church organizations must partner together even more." He went on to say "the need for cooperation never goes away. The Evangelical Catholic Together (ECT) found a lot in common with conservative Roman Catholics."

The NAE Business Meeting dealt with the problem of solving the huge deficit and how they needed an increase of income for the NAE. The rewriting of the bylaws is being done and attempts are being made to strengthen relationships among NAE constituent bodies. They adopted a Second Statement of Conscience Concerning Worldwide Religious Persecution and another resolution on Hiring Rights.

The Assembly in the evening on March 6 included a large choir and orchestra as well as a brief greeting from the Governor of Minnesota, Tom Pawlenty, who is a member of Wooddale Church. He said "we have got a lot to do in Minnesota. I salute President Bush's faith-based initiatives." He also quoted someone who said that "an ounce of preacher is worth a ton of politician."

The main speaker that evening was Dr. Chuck Colson, president of Prison Fellowship. Colson said "if something is going to happen in America it will start in the pulpit. Let us not be casual about the church. Martin Luther said his knees knocked when he stood up to speak." Colson did not refer to the fact that he was a promoter of the Evangelical Catholic Together that Dr. Neff had referred to earlier in the day.

The final session was a panel on "Evangelicals in Public Engagement," led by Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs. Ron Sider, longtime promoter of Social Action Causes, and Diane Knippers, who is attempting to lead the NCC/WCC to take a more conservative stand while she continues to be a member of a church body that is in both organizations, also served on this panel with Cizik.

Observations by this reporter:

(a) The NAE from its birth in 1942 has been committed to an inclusive policy. It failed to demand separation from the NCC/WCC in order to become a part of NAE. The majority of churches in the NAE are Pentecostal/Charismatic. That is certainly seen in the choice of Dr. Haggard as its new president. A previous president was Dr. Donald Argue, a leader in the Assemblies of God denomination.

(b) The attendance at NAE Conventions in the past has averaged about 500. This year there were less than 200 who were registered.

(c) The budget for the NAE is $700,000 and it was announced that they were now in the black again.

(d) The NAE claims to represent 43,000 congregations from 51 denominations and individual congregations from an additional 27 denominations (many of the latter are still members of denominations in the NCC/WCC). They say they represent some 27 million Americans.

(e) The new evangelical Mission America Coalition (MAC) recently formed an alliance with the NAE in an attempt to reach America for Christ. Honorary Co-Chairs of the MAC are Dr. Bill Bright, Dr. Billy Graham and Dr. John Perkins. It is another illustration of ecumenical evangelism that is a trademark of the new evangelical movement.

(f) One of the displays at this year's NAE Convention was the Evangelical Environmental Network with their posters containing the question, "What would Jesus Drive?" This foolish question raises the kind of issue that makes people feel good but it comes across as an anti-SUV bandwagon!

(g) Biblical separation is neither taught nor practiced at NAE and NRB functions. God's Word clearly teaches separation from both apostasy and compromise (II Timothy 3:1-5; II Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:11; II Thessalonians 3:6; Revelation 18:4).

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 2/2004